Notice of award received April 15, 2009;

Contract start date: expected July 1, 2009

A substantial research-and-development effort is currently underway to make biomass-derived fuels a viable alternative to foreign-sourced, petroleum-based fuels.  Solid-oxide fuel cells have the potential to convert biomass-derived fuels into electricity at very high thermal efficiency, increasing the yield of electricity per unit of fuel, and subsequently decreasing both the cost of electricity generation and the rate of pollutant formation. The Colorado School of Mines (CSM) has assembled a strong and diverse team of scientists and researchers with broad skill sets applicable to the development of fuel-cell systems.  Coordinated through the Colorado Fuel Cell Center (CFCC), this team will examine both the fundamental underpinnings and the key technological problems facing SOFC systems utilizing biomass-derived fuel streams.  While biomass-derived fuels can take many forms (gaseous, liquids, hydrocarbons, alcohols, etc.) liquid fuels derived from biomass sources will most-probably be used in portable-power applications, where SOFCs are seeing significant interest. As such, the three-year program focuses on addressing the challenges of mating SOFCs to biomass-derived liquid fuels in systems sized in the range of 1 – 15 kWe, where SOFCs are expected to play a significant role. 

CFCC receives $1.665 million from DOE for program on “Biomass Fuel Cell Systems”

In this program, we develop next-generation SOFC materials and architectures for use with liquid biomass-derived streams, with a focus on addressing the technical challenges and the required operating windows associated with carbon-deposit formation.  We develop fuel-reforming strategies for vaporizing and catalytically converting liquid biomass fuels into hydrogen and carbon-monoxide syngas streams upstream of the SOFC stack.  We develop component- and system-control strategies to improve the dynamic response of fuel-cell systems using model-predictive control.  System modeling will be used to craft optimal integration solutions for portable power applications, with additional examination of stationary-power applications involving landfill- and anaerobic-digester-derived biomass streams.  Final, detailed computational modeling efforts will be conducted to examine the fundamental underpinnings of cell and system operation.  The program involves extensive collaboration between the Engineering Division (Profs. Sullivan, Kee, Braun and Vincent), the Chemical Engineering Department (Prof. Dean), and the Metallurgical and Materials Engineering Department (Profs. O’Hayre, Sammes and Tong).

This federal appropriation was awarded through the strong support of the Colorado Delegation to Congress, particularly through the efforts of Congressmen Ed Perlmutter and his staff.  The program is managed by the Department of Energy’s Golden Field Office under award number DE-EE-0000260.